By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
DULUTH, Ga. – Kastine Evans has always believed in giving back.
The junior Kentucky basketball player from Salem, Conn., who on Monday was named to the Southeastern Conference Community Service Team, had the importance of helping others instilled in her from an early age by her parents.
Both of them have achieved great professional success, her father as a football player for the New York Jets and her mother as a financial director for a pharmaceutical company, but where they came from was something they have never forgotten.
“My parents, both of them come from families that weren’t as privileged, so they had to work hard to get where they are, and they always told us that you can’t forget people who helped you and you can’t forget people who are struggling,” Evans said. “That was just evident throughout my whole life with some of my brother’s friends and mine who don’t have two parents in their household or the same financial abilities, my parents would help them. Just because you’re privileged doesn’t mean you can’t help other people. My mom is a real woman of faith and a servant to other people.”
Evans, who is a mainstay on the Academic All-SEC teams and was already involved in a number of community service activities in the Lexington area, participated in a service trip to Ethiopia last summer with seven other UK student-athletes and athletics department staff members.
That trip – seeing first-hand the effects of true poverty, including famine and the lack of running water or utilities – had a lasting impact on Evans. Her experience, coupled with a conversation she had with UK tennis team member Grace Trimble, who had established LTC Smart Shots, a non-profit organization that helps underprivileged elementary age students, inspired Evans to begin her own organization.
This past January, Evans began a non-profit program called “Shooting at Success,” a 10-week program that takes place on Mondays after school at two different Lexington-area churches. At each church, she instructs groups of 50 elementary-aged kids from low-income households on life lessons and building character, using basketball as the vehicle.
“I’m doing a basketball clinic for some of the kids in Lexington who are mostly in a lower socioeconomic area and don’t have as many opportunities as a lot of other kids,” Evans said. “I am working with Lexington Leadership and Urban Impact, which had already been doing something similar, but they didn’t have an organized activity, except for the academic side and meeting with families.”
For Evans, playing basketball, something she has always excelled at, seems like second nature. But the 5-foot-8 guard also realizes the platform that athletes can have as role models to others.
“A lot of it came from my understanding the platform that, as athletes, there are always people looking up to us in the community,” Evans said. “It’s great to give back to people in Lexington who support us so much. Our games are always pretty full and there is a lot of opportunity given to us every day to help those people who wish they could be in our shoes.”
Evans, who enters this week’s SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga., averaging 19.8 minutes per game and 4.5 points per game, said her teammates and other student-athletes at the University of Kentucky have been encouraging of her non-profit and she has brought in many of them as speakers at different sessions of “Shooting at Success.”
“Some of them didn’t really know about it, but the ones who did have been very supportive,” Evans said. “They want to come and help, especially the ones who are majoring in social work or family science. Just being more involved in the community might be what they want to do in life. We all work camps in the summer and enjoy being around kids. We are all passionate when we are around basketball, so we try to display that in anything we teach.”
It might be hard to imagine how one could juggle being an NCAA Division I basketball player, an honor-roll student and still have time to begin a non-profit foundation but, for Evans, it all comes down to priorities and making time for what is important.
“It is just the type of person I am,” Evans said. “I am very organized and very persistent in what I do and I am good at doing things when they are supposed to get done. Academics come first, then basketball and after that comes community service. I have a clear vision of what I want and how to accomplish it.”
Evans, a business management major, looks to translate her dedication to community outreach to her life after college, where she plans to build on the model she has created with “Shooting at Success.”
“I want to open up a recreational center,” Evans said. “I played a lot of basketball in New York and that’s where my grandparents are from. There’s not really anywhere to go other than Boys and Girls Clubs in certain areas. They have a community center, but there’s really nothing organized. My long-term plan is to open up something like that.
“I hope my teammates and freshmen who come in have a similar vision to step up and continue what I started here.”